Sports Nut

Game 7: Angels 4, Giants 1

Troy Glaus: terrific, but not most valuable

You have to admire the chutzpah of Giants pitcher Livan Hernandez—there he was in Game 7, throwing utter crap that all the world (or at least that part of the world not watching TheSopranos or Sunday night football) could plainly see was utter crap, and yet he was ferociously working the home-plate ump. It reminded me of a Charlie Brown maxim: “If you can’t be right, then be wrong at the top of your lungs.” It was the most passion we saw out of the Giants all night.

It would have been asking too much for the Angels and Giants to duplicate the drama of Game 6, and of course they were not able to. A baseball season is really a marathon in disguise, and you got the sense last night of two competitors struggling not to let the other see their drop-dead fatigue. Rookie pitcher John Lackey gets the Unlikely Hero honors for a performance that, while something less than extraordinary, got the job done. Once the Angels put their four runs on the board, they held on for dear life. Neither team mustered a run, or even much of a threat, after the third inning. Bonds’ final at-bat was one of the weakest efforts he put forth all series.

The postgame festivities had some minor delights, though. The constant images of sobbing, inconsolable batboys were a bit much, but then we got to see our old friend Mike Eisner, and what a treat that was. When historians try to pinpoint the moment that the T-shirt started to decline as a hipster fashion icon, they may well point to the Disney CEO’s appearance on the winners’ podium last night wearing a Mickey Mouse number under his blazer. If he’d happened to wear an artfully shredded pair of jeans, the fashion apocalypse would have been complete.

Matching his off-kilter outfit was the odd thing he had to say. After name-checking a bunch of Angels’ employees, Eisner stammered, “You never can count Orange County out!” The crowd dutifully cheered, but they had to be wondering what the hell he was talking about. This type of line might work in, say, Buffalo, a place that has had its share of hard knocks and does tend to get counted out. But who counts out Orange County? Eisner’s neighbors in Beverly Hills, perhaps?

It made me realize what a sensational job the Angels have done in packaging themselves. Here we have a team that is owned by one of the world’s most powerful media conglomerates, that is situated in one of the wealthiest areas in the country, and they successfully seized the role for themselves of romantic, over-achieving underdogs. Now, that is some serious imagineering. And just in time for Disney to unload the team—think it’s a coincidence that Eisner finally got a handle on the baseball business at the same moment he put the club on the block?

On the other side of the field, Giants’ ownerPeter Magowan seems all too ready and willing to establish himself as the West Coast incarnation of George Steinbrenner. After ingenuously setting up the privately financed stadium deal that should make the Giants one of most powerful and profitable clubs for years to come, he can’t help but muck around with the team. He is about to lose the universally respected manager who took him within a game of a title. And Magowan has gone on record as saying he will not “overpay” to keep star second baseman Jeff Kent from departing as a free agent, which is tantamount to saying, “See ya later.”

Now, Kent is clearly not Mr. Personality, or at least not Mr. Good Personality, but he’s a fine player and arguably more important to the Giants’ future than Bonds is. Will Barry end up breaking Hank Aaron’s home-run record playing for some sad-sack team in decline? It’s possible. A 38-year-old superstar is bound to begin his descent into human frailty at some point soon, and where he goes, the team will follow. Of course, on the other hand, you could easily see Bonds becoming hellbent on showing that his nemesis Kent had nothing to do with either his or the team’s success and hitting .400 next year.

The big debate last night was whether Barry Bonds deserved the World Series Most Valuable Player award even in a losing cause. I can’t believe there’s even much discussion about this. Troy Glaus played terrifically, but how many times was he intentionally walked? Bonds was the MVP. Give that man a Buttery Nipple.